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When little Oliver Smith inherits the gloomy mansion Helton Hall, his scheming cousins, the Snodde-Brittles, are determined to rid themselves of the orphan heir. They have a perfect plan. They will hire some terrifying ghosts from the Dial-a-Ghost Agency to scare the boy to death. But, as in any Eva Ibbotson novel, the fantastic creatures do not necessarily behave as expected-they are a little too human for that. Soon the ghosts, led by a mysterious girl spirit named Adopta, have joined with Oliver against his ...
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Dial a Ghost

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When little Oliver Smith inherits the gloomy mansion Helton Hall, his scheming cousins, the Snodde-Brittles, are determined to rid themselves of the orphan heir. They have a perfect plan. They will hire some terrifying ghosts from the Dial-a-Ghost Agency to scare the boy to death. But, as in any Eva Ibbotson novel, the fantastic creatures do not necessarily behave as expected-they are a little too human for that. Soon the ghosts, led by a mysterious girl spirit named Adopta, have joined with Oliver against his cousins. But they may have underestimated the depths of the Snodde-Brittles' evil....

The laughs and frights are thick in this spooky story, which is sure to join Eva Ibbotson's other books as classics of the genre.

A family of nice ghosts protects a British orphan from the diabolical plans of his evil guardians.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Once again, Ibbotson (Which Witch; Island of the Aunts) dishes up an irresistible brew of magical high jinks and adventure in this tongue-in-cheek post-WWII ghost story set in Britain and starring two families of displaced spooks. Miss Pringle and Mrs. Mannering, founders of the Adopt-A-Ghost agency, are delighted when they find homes for two of their hard-to-place clients, the Wilkinson family of five (who died all at once when a bomb hit their house) and the Shriekers, a pair of maimed and foul-smelling aristocrats who, after suffering the loss of their only child, aim to rid the world of as many living youngsters as possible. Due to a clerical error, the spirits wind up in the wrong homes. The Shriekers haunt an abbey filled with mild-mannered nuns, and the Wilkinsons move into the Snodde-Brittle estate, where their two evil hosts plan to scare to death the youngest heir, a kindhearted orphan named Oliver. The comedy of errors becomes more complicated by the minute as murderous plots are foiled, ghost busters are hired and the identity of the Shriekers' long-lost daughter is uncovered (astute readers will figure it out before the Shriekers do). Hawkes's whimsical drawings perfectly capture the book's slapstick action and sly humor. Readers will be highly amused as disjointed pieces of the puzzle start to neatly interlock. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
This is a fun little fantasy full of ghosts both kind and terrible that ends with everyone living happily ever after. Helton Hall has fallen into the hands of a young orphaned boy, Oliver, who has two older, horrible cousins, Fulton and Frieda, who want the place for themselves. Fulton (next in line to inherit) devises a plan to bring in some perfectly awful ghosts to haunt the castle and frighten young Oliver so dreadfully that he'll leave Helton Hall forever. Two old ladies in London have a ghost-placing agency called Dial-A-Ghost Agency and it is here that Fulton turns. Miss Pringle and Mrs. Mannering, the proprietors, take pride in putting the right ghosts in the right situation. They decide to send a family of ghosts, The Shriekers, to Helton Hall because Fulton has said he wants some mean ghosts to entertain the masses when he opens the Hall to the public. Never does it cross their minds that Fulton might be up to no good. At the same time, a convent of nuns offers a ruined part of their abbey to a family of lovely, docile ghosts and the Dial-A-Ghost Agency finds the Wilkinson family for them. At the last minute, a switch of files occurs and, well, you can guess the bedlam that ensues. Nevertheless, Oliver falls in love with the Wilkinsons (the first family he's had) and they figure out what Fulton is really up to. This is a funny, somewhat predictable story, but fans of Ibbotson's The Secret of Platform 13 will love it; Harry Potter fans may find it enjoyable, too. At the end, Oliver and the ghosts outwit Fulton and they all live happily ever after at Helton Hall, which has been turned into a ghost research facility. A fun read. 2001, Dutton,
— Joan Kindig
This novel relates the tale of a family of nice but presently homeless ghosts of people who were killed during a London bombing in World War II. They seek the help of an agency that matches ghosts to haunts. Fulton Snodde-Brittle, an opportunistic and evil heir to a large estate, also seeks help at this agency. Fulton secretly engages some shriekers to scare away Oliver, a young orphan who is all that stands between him and the manor. A mix-up luckily sends the nice ghosts to Oliver and some available shriekers to an unfortunate convent. The ghosts make fast friends with Oliver and conjure up a few friends of their own to match wits with his evil uncle. The shriekers and a rid-a-ghost service, however, have more surprises in store. This author, whose Which Witch? (Dutton, 1999) was a bestseller, has carved a niche in the juvenile fiction market for stories involving magic, wizards, and ghosts. Given the phenomenon of Harry Potter, there likely will be many young adult crossover readers for this novel. Ibbotson manages to make the macabre and maudlin somewhat funny, as did Roald Dahl. A pleasant, quick read for those who enjoy supernatural stories, the novel has a definite British flavor and a juvenile-level story, but it also has many interesting plot twists and a good sense of humor that recommend it for middle school and junior high collections where there is interest. VOYA CODES:4Q 4P M J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses;Broad general YA appeal;Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8;Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2001 (orig. 1996), Dutton, 256p, $15.99. Ages 11 to 15. Reviewer:Kevin Beach—VOYA, December 2001 (Vol. 24, No. 5)
School Library Journal
Gr 3-6-When a perfectly respectable family of ghosts finds itself homeless, its members are horrified to have to take up residence in a knicker shop (think Wonderbras). Luckily, an agency for the placement of homeless ghosts finds a lovely convent for them to haunt, but they are accidentally sent to Helton Hall instead, which is inhabited by one small and lonely orphan. The two hideous spirits who were supposed to be sent there to scare the boy to death (courtesy of Oliver's scheming, evil uncle) are mistakenly sent to the convent. But all turns out well and the evil uncle ends up a ghost in the knicker shop, tearing merchandise apart with his teeth. The irresistible premise of this story is that if you happen to become a ghost, you go on pretty much as you did before, but with tastes a tad more macabre. The book is filled with a large and delightful cast of characters, some made of ectoplasm and some made of flesh. No one could be as frightening as the de Bone ghosts, who festoon themselves with rotting gobbets of meat and a ghostly python, except maybe Uncle Fulton, who wants to take over Helton Hall. The Wilkinsons, from the bewhiskered, umbrella-wielding Grandma to little Adopta, are the perfect ghostly family for Oliver. The black-and-white illustrations have an eerie charm. Don't miss this phantasmally funny fantasy.-Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Child Magazine
A Child Magazine Best Book of 2001 Pick

Take one 10-year-old orphan, add a pair of conniving relatives, top it off with a mix-up by the dithering owners of a placement agency for ghosts, and the result is this utterly delectable farce.

Kirkus Reviews
If R.L. Stine, Charles Dickens, and Lemony Snicket gave a writers' workshop, any resulting fiction might not be a literary masterpiece, but it would have deliciously wicked currency with young readers. Such is this latest from Ibbotson (Island of the Aunts, 2000, etc.), with plot intersections, melodramatic misfortunes, and macabre special effects. At the center of the main plot twist is an agency called Dial-a-Ghost, which is run by two well-meaning social-worker types. It seeks to match ghosts with positions where ghosts are needed—and wanted. The Wilkinsons, an endearing family of ghosts killed during a WWII bombing, are seeking a more appropriate home in which to raise a family than the lingerie shop in the mall. Meanwhile, Sir and Lady de Bone (a.k.a. the Shriekers), Victorian ghosts who have taken a vow to do appalling harm to innocent children, are hired by a pair of murderous guardians for the sole purpose of literally scaring to death a vulnerable little orphan-heir named (of all things) Oliver. The two placements are switched by an inept Dial-a-Ghost office boy with hilarious and dramatic consequences. The Shriekers wind up in the convent home intended for the gentle Wilkinsons, who themselves settle in with Oliver. He is immediately comforted by their kindly presence. The atmospherics are enhanced by Ibbotson's unerring ability to interpret the extraordinary in the most deadpan and literal way, such as the business strategies employed by Dial-a-Ghost. The ghosts themselves are a satisfyingly eccentric bunch: Grandma's "whiskers on her chin stuck out like daggers in the moonlight," and Lady Sabrina de Bone, whose toes were worn away by hatred and her "nose nothing buta nibbled stump." While much of this territory may seem familiar, it is never old to young readers who like their humor laced with blood-curdling screams, and just can't get enough. (Fiction. 8-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780756915667
  • Publisher: Perfection Learning Corporation
  • Publication date: 4/28/2003
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 4.50 (w) x 7.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Eva Ibbotson, born Maria Charlotte Michelle Wiesner (21 January 1925 - 20 October 2010), was an Austrian-born British novelist, known for her children's books. Some of her novels for adults have been successfully reissued for the young adult market in recent years. For the historical novel Journey to the River Sea (Macmillan, 2001), she won the Smarties Prize in category 9-11 years, garnered unusual commendation as runner up for the Guardian Prize, and made the Carnegie, Whitbread, and Blue Peter shortlists. She was a finalist for the 2010 Guardian Prize at the time of her death. Her last book, The Abominables, was one of eight books on the longlist for the same award in 2012.

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Read an Excerpt

Oliver did not think he would be able to sleep, but he did sleep -- a restless, twitchy sleep filled with hideous dreams.

Then suddenly he was awake... A hand! A pale hand coming through the wardrobe door, its fingers searching and turning...The hand was attached to an arm in a white sleeve: a wan and lightless limb, sinister and ghastly.

The wailing nun? The murdered bride?

The other arm was coming through the fly-stained mirror now -- and dangling from it on a kind of string was something round and horrible and loose.

Its head. The phantom was carrying its head.

Knowing that his end had come gave Oliver a sudden spurt of strength. Managing to draw air through his lungs, he sat bolt upright and switched on the light. "Come out of there," he called, "and show yourself."

The figure did as it was told. If it was a nun or a bride, it was a very small one, and it seemed to be dressed for bed.

"Who are you?" asked Oliver, between the chattering of his teeth.

The ghost came forward. "I'm Adopta Wilkinson," she said. "There's no problem about that. But who are you, because you're certainly not a nun."

Oliver stared at her. She seemed to be about his own age, with a lot of hair and sticking-out ears. "Why should I be a nun?" he asked. "It's you who are supposed to be a nun. And headless."

"Do I look headless?" she asked, sounding cross.

"No. I thought... your sponge bag was your head."

The ghost thought this was funny. "Would you like to see what's inside?" she asked.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 11 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2010

    Dial-A-Ghost Review

    Oliver Smith, an orphan, finds out he is the rightful owner to his families' mansion, Helton Hall. But his greedy cousins, Fulton and Frieda Snoddle-Brittle, are less than thrilled. They decide to hire ghosts from the Dial-A-Ghost agency and try to scare him to death. Will the ghosts end up being friends or foes?
    The Wilkinson's are a sweet, loving family that became ghosts when a bomb fell on their house. They were forced to live in a store until they found the Dial-A-Ghost agency. They were due to go to their new home the same day as the nasty, hated Shriekers. But, the guy in charge of the folders that have the homes each ghost is going to have a big secret that might change everything.
    Eva Ibbotson did an amazing job at making me feel like I was at Oliver's side the whole time. I could feel everything he felt. She made the end very surprising and shocking. I recommend this book to anyone who likes a good story with lots of action and stuff you never expected!

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  • Posted May 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great book!

    Dial-a-ghost is the story of a friendly family of ghosts called the Wilkinsons who were killed by a bomb during an air raid in the Second World War. As many years go by their house is rebuilt and is non longer suitable for them. They move to London to find more space but it is even more crowded there and they are forced to haunt a knickers shop in a shopping mall. In London, Adopta, a young ghost from the Victorian era who is being taken care of by the Wilkinsons, discovers a building with a large flashing sign that says Adopt-a-ghost. The ladies from the Adopt-a-Ghost Agency meet the Wilkinsons and decide to send them to an old abandoned chapel that nuns there have offered up as a home for a suitable family of ghosts. Meanwhile an orphan boy named Oliver is told that he is the owner of Helton Hall. His cousins, a brother and sister, want the inheritance. They visit Oliver's orphanage to tell him the news and to bring him back to Helton hall. They order two terrifying ghosts called the shriekers from the Adopt-a-Ghost Agency to scare Oliver to death. The folders of the Wilkinsons and the shriekers at the agency are mixed so the two ghost families are sent to the wrong addresses where chaos and confusion ensue. Dial-a-ghost is a wonderful story that excites your imagination and makes you feel in sympathy for the characters. Eva Ibbotson writes mainly fictional ghost stories for children and young adults in an easy and strait forward fashion. I would highly recommend this exciting and interesting book to anyone who is looking for something fun to read. Some other books written by Eve Ibbotson are the beasts at Clawsone castle, which witch?, and journey to the river sea.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2005


    I love this book. It is one of my favorites because it is such a good storyline, so original, and has plenty of humor. I loved hearing the plight of the ghosts, and the tragic mix-up. The result was one of the funniest books I've ever read. I would'nt reccommend reading this book in public; you'd laugh too hard. But this book is an outstanding piece of literature and I love it and will cherish it forever.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2004


    I loved it was so cool. I plan to read 18 more times.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2004

    A 'Must Read' Book

    This book was outstanding. I think that everyone should read this book. It was great.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 4, 2003

    great book!

    I love this book! I've read it so many times, I've lost count!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 2, 2003

    Good Book

    I don't think that this book is quite as good as the others that she has written. But this book is still very good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2003

    Best Book Ever!

    This is probaly the best book EVER! I would HIGHLY recommend this book, for anyone!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2002


    This book was excellent! I totally recommend it to any one from ages 8+. If you like Harry Potter, you should try this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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